“I know aficionados of microdoses,” sings Fred Fortin on the title song of his sixth album – the surprise launch of which, at 12:01 a.m. on Aug. 23, 2019, had remained a very well-kept secret until that moment. “Microdose was a surprise even for me,” says Fortin. “I wanted new material to bring on my solo tour.” What started as an EP ended up as a full album. When gathered together, those songs, lying in the bottoms of drawers, seemed to go with his new ideas, and resonated like a rough and dirty melody, both current and directly linked to his start… more than 20 years ago.

Fred Fortin, Microdose

Fortin has delivered an album, of which half the songs are with Joe Grass, and the other half with Olivier Langevin, and all of it recorded with Pierre Girard. “We wanted it to be spontaneous, rough and dirty,” he says “I had stuff to get off my chest after Ultramarr, which was a slightly more conventional album.”

His second album, Le plancher des vaches, is the one he feels is the closest to this one. “They share the same raw vibe,” says Fortin. “And there are several language levels. It’s complete nonsense. They’re manifestations of life, sometimes sad and sometimes happy. There’s all kinds of bipolar curves.”

“There are eight songs on the album that were all done at the same time, including this one. I would swap guitars to find inspiration. I recently worked with Diane Tell. That led to me having a lot of fun with bossa nova-type rhythms. It reminded me of bands from the West Coast of the U.S. All those cool, hip people. I started making fun, in good faith, of San Francisco, and people who are too cool. Joe Grass plays on this one, and he said to me with his Anglo accent, “I know what this needs. Flute, this needs flute.” He knows EriK Hove. We called him and he played the flute. I don’t know how that guy sees me now. I really like this music. I wanted to involve the zeitgeist, the microdose, the idea of doing things little by little, that’s what it’s all about. The Mile-End [neighburhood] is Montréal’s San Francisco. I like it, but you can also make fun of it.”

“I considered offering that one to Diane Tell. But my girlfriend and Langevin didn’t want to let go of it. It’s the story of a violent character. I like going to extreme psychological zones. I also very much like characters who don’t have control over what’s going on. When you talk about killing someone, it’s OK in the movies, but when you toy around with that type of fiction in a song, you need to provide a tremendous amount of context in three minutes. I’ve re-appropriated this right to be trashy after Ultramarr, which was a little tamer.”

“Led Zeppeline”
“I added an ‘e’ at the end to avoid any confusion. The analogy varies, according to the verses. There’s a kid’s squabble, like those we’ve experienced during my kid’s teens. My youngest is 14, and he wasn’t too warm on the idea of being featured in the song, but he thought it was super-funny, in the end. I wanted to tell a family story.”

“Cracher en l’air”
“That one also came out of my studio blitz. It’s about someone I’m close to who told me how tough it was. I tell it as if it was happening to me. Jealousy and resentment are feelings that can be hard to express. It’s hard music, but in a different way. It’s a heavier emotional level, and you can hear it in the music. It’s up to everyone to create their own image. The guitar is also heavier on that one. I recorded the guitar and drums first. I was on a tangent of writing about people I’m close to, so the rest all came to me super-easily.”

Fred Fortin, Microdose“King Size”
“I write this for someone else’s album. If you pay close attention, you’ll hear it on another album, but with slight variations. The people around me really wanted me to keep it, so I changed a whole section of chords in the middle when I recorded the other one. My girlfriend, Langevin, and Pierre Girard really liked the melody. They’re my three wives. They decide.”

“That’s an old draft from before Ultramarr. I don’t know why I didn’t keep it. The recording dates back to 2014. I probably figured I had enough smooth tracks on the album. It’s very ‘bare bones.’ I love playing slower, less heavy dynamics. The whole album is all over the map like that.”

“The story is funny. The opening sentence sent me on a tangent. It’s from a Galaxie show. We were playing the Sea Shack, in Gaspésie. Alexis Dumais was touring with us as a keyboardist. It was Halloween and all of us were in costume. Alexis was wearing a Passe-Montagne costume [a character from an immensely popular TV show for 0 to six-year-olds from the ’70s and ’80s on Télé-Québec]. He ended up on the beach, in his costume, at 4:00 a.m. When he got in the van the next day, he was still wearing it. We stopped at Tim Hortons, and he kept it on. He told us: ‘I should swing by my parents in Rimouski, and tell them, ‘Don’t worry, I’m really not well.’ I kept that line. I love being like a vampire with my friends in that way. I thought the image was too good not to use.”

“I got the idea for this one while I was walking up the hill to talk on the phone at my cabin. I actually got the idea on my way back down. The reception is pretty bad at the bottom (laughs). I wanted a horny free pass to defuse the rest.”

“Now that’s an old one! It’s from in between Gros Mené and the rest of my stuff. I had done a version with a real drum, but I decided to do it over as a one-man band.”

“That’s also from the big batch. I’m a bit of a redneck, in a certain way. It’s part of the North American mentality. We’re all slightly rednecks, in our own way. I exaggerated the attitude in order to make a story out of it. I got Mononc’ Serge on to blast the world. But there’s also a conqueror element à la Éric Lapointe, I think.”

“That’s gravel: zero three quarters of an inch. I picked up this old console and I was trying it out at home, while I was having a load of zero three quarters delivered in my yard. Ideally, you have to listen to this one while walking barefoot in gravel. ‘You dream of getting a good run under a grader to wipe off all of your scars.’ I thought the image was nice.”

“That’s an old one. It was a commission I got for an artist who really didn’t like it (laughs). Anique Granger used it on her album. I really liked the melody.”


To listen to or purchase Fred Fortin’s Microdose, click here.

Iqaluit, Nunavut:  It’s Nunavut Music Week 2.0, and rapper FxckMr is taking advantage of meeting a small group of people from the Canadian music industry, mostly from Toronto, there to learn as much about the remote, stark, beautiful capital city and Arctic community of 7,700 people and the struggles and logistics facing musicians there, as they are from us.

FxckMr – real name MisterLee Cloutier-Ellsworth – performs numerous times, at Inuksuk High School for a CBC q radio special; the Royal Canadian Legion (the only true live music venue); an unprecedented outdoor concert on bone-chilling Frobisher Bay; and at the NuBrew open mic.

He also performs at the Franco-Centre in the daytime, where the informal informational sessions take place, with everyone seated in a circle, talking about what they do and taking questions from the local musicians – designed to provide mentorship for those interested. FxckMr is interested.

“I’ve always been good at articulating my thoughts and new ideas.”

By the end of the three-day trip, he’s won the visitors over, blowing us away with his rhymes, and endearing us with his friendly personality. He’s even impressed a mainstream daily like The Toronto Star enough to cover him. But underneath his smile, FxckMr uses hip-hop to expose the realities of life in the North, one often filled with addiction, depression, and suicide, familiar to so many youth from the territory.

His eight-song debut album, 1997, which includes previously released cuts “Higher,” “PMFWAFT” and “Hunnid Grand,” drops Sept. 20, 2019, on Aakuluk Music, the label started by Iqaluit breakout band The Jerry Cans, via Six Shooter. FxckMr has just turned 22, but it’s taken him five years to land this unique opportunity, releasing a hip-hop album on a national scale with the industry behind him.

“I’ve always been good at articulating my thoughts and new ideas,” he says, standing outside the Franco-Centre. “I started writing poetry when I was about 15.  I might’ve done some more when I was younger, but 15 was when I was like, ‘Okay, I like this.’”

There was no hip-hop scene in Iqaluit, he says. Most of the music is traditional, passed down from the elders to ensure it doesn’t die with the next generation. “Rock bands, or folk singers playing acoustic Inuktitut music, is mostly what people are interested in,” says FxckMr.

“I wasn’t big into hip-hop. There was a Childish Gambino, I was into him when I was 15, and a bit of Eminem, but I wasn’t hip-hop-oriented. I was into electronic and dubstep music in those days, and then 17 was when it started switching.”

At 16, FxckMr lived in Montréal – where his mother’s side of the family is from, and where he now resides – and was introduced to some rap from friends, before moving back to Iqaluit a year later, where he was exposed to local hip-hop artists, like Lekan Thomas, Hyper-T, and Brian Tagalik.

“We started freestyling,” he says, “and there was a high school talent show that was going to be happening, and it happened to be while we were doing a poetry unit in English class, so I was like, ‘We’re doing this.’” He got a good response and kept on writing – dozens, then 100, and now approaching 200 songs.

“I haven’t gotten into producing yet,” says FxckMr. “I’ve been trying to perfect the lyrics first. I will become proficient in the producing, and even instruments. I know I’m going to catch on to the drums, the keyboard, trying to do the guitar. I don’t think it’s quite my thing, but I’m trying to go outside the lyrics a little bit.”

But as important as preserving the Inuk language is, FxckMr always rhymes in English. “I know I could sit down and write an Inuktitut song, but I don’t see it as what’s going to help my career right now,” he says.

With political and racial polarization approaching an all-time high in the modern dis-United States of America, one of that country’s most iconic fast-food chains is reminding us that “We Have More in Common Than We Think.”

That’s the feel-good tag-line of a McDonald’s television commercial, which samples “The Only Difference,” a song recorded by Toronto’s Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs, that’s become the legendary mega-brand’s 2018-2019 core theme song. The groovy soul track, a CBC Music Top 20 hit co-written by Beatchild (aka Byram Joseph) and Toronto-based singer Justin Nozuka – who’s also featured on the song – appears on The Slakadeliqs’ 2018 album, Heavy Rockin’ Steady.

“The only difference between you and I is everything and nothing at all,” goes the singalong chorus, featured prominently in the commercial, which began airing in December of 2018 (as befits the holiday season that celebrates Peace on Earth).

A month prior, Beatchild received a message from Alec Stern, the Director of Music at Chicago-based advertising agency DDB Chicago, telling him that he had a big project, one in which he thought Beatchild would be interested. In an interview that appeared on the site Muse By Clio, Stern said he’d searched for a song for the commercial for weeks, “and by total chance, just Spotify worm-holing on the train, this song comes on and the lines are, ‘The only difference between you and I is everything and nothing at all.’

“I looked down, and it was ‘The Only Difference,’ by an artist I’d never heard of – Beatchild & The Slakadeliqs. It was like Columbus discovering America. Everyone was in love with it… It felt like the perfect marriage of audio and visual. I was so thrilled to work with an indie artist and give him this sort of platform.”

After getting the call with the big news, Beatchild (formerly Slakah the Beatchild) says, “as soon as I put the phone down, I started dancing. Pelvic thrusts! Everything! And when I saw the commercial, it felt surreal,” he adds, on the line from his East-Toronto studio.

“It’s reassuring to know that you can reach millions of people because your music touched one person the right way.” – Beatchild

Asked if McDonald’s requested any changes or revisions to “The Only Difference,” he says, “No, thank goodness! I’m all for collaborating, but not at the expense of my artistic integrity. I’m not willing to sacrifice my art.”

Beatchild says the idea for the song “came out of the sky,” and took him two years to develop. “I took my time with the verses,” the self-described perfectionist says. “I’m a big fan of re-writing, and adjusting accordingly. That whole process for me is the demo process, and the winning demo is the one that I put my energy into, and release.”

Beatchild, whose music has also graced commercials for KFC, Unilever, and the Just Dance videogame series, says he was “paid very well. It was six digits.” The buzz is slowly fading, says the producer and multi-instrumentalist, who’s worked with Drake, Jessie Reyez, and Shad, before they blew up. He’s currently focused on making new music.

Beatchild says the placement in the McDonald’s commercial hasn’t led to folks rushing to buy his albums, but adds that, “it’s reassuring for a musician like me, who isn’t on the Billboard charts, to know that you can reach millions of people because your music touched one person the right way.”